While the after effects of flood damage to buildings are easily visible, floods also have many knock-on effects on the health and well-being of those affected which can add a lot of stress and disruption to daily life.
This blog has been written by a member of the Newground Flood Team.
If you live in a flood risk area, the chances are a number of organisations and agencies are currently working to alleviate some of that risk. However, where feasible, flood mitigation can be an expensive and lengthy process. One thing that everybody does need to be aware of is that while these schemes are designed to reduce flood risk, they cannot remove it completely. Residual flood risk will always remain and homeowners and businesses should never fully rely on flood defence schemes alone to prevent their property from flooding. Schemes are designed and built to offer a certain standard of protection and we have already seen examples of them being over-topped, which has happened in Carlisle, Cumbria, on more than one occasion.
For this reason, you should investigate and seek professional advice about the property flood resilience (PFR) options available to you. In certain circumstances, it may be possible to prevent water entering your property altogether. While in relation to any large-scale flood defence schemes or community measures, PFR measures may be regarded as your last line of defence, they should actually be your first port of call and priority!
Flood planning can help you to reduce the impact and damage caused by a flood, as well as make the recovery process much easier and quicker. If you haven’t experienced a flood event before, it’s always advisable to learn as much as you can about your flood risk first; considering the risk from multiple sources, their expected frequency, depth and duration of floodwater to help you plan effectively. You can enter your postcode and check your flood risk online here.
Those who have experienced flooding will often tell you how quickly the water approached and entered their property. When panic sets in it can be difficult to remember what is important to take stock of, which is why creating a flood plan helps to formalise and record a response procedure which can be actioned upon receiving a given trigger; such as a flood warning. If you are not already signed up and registered to receive the Environment Agency’s free flood warning service (which provides alerts and warnings for river and coastal flooding), you can check if you are eligible and sign up by calling the Floodline number on 0345 988 1188 or by registering your details online here. If you aren’t eligible to sign up for the Environment Agency’s Flood Warning Service, you can see what other alternative triggers there are available on The Flood Hub here.
As there may be little time to respond, prioritising actions is the core of flood planning. For example, moving your car to a safe place may need to be either the first or last thing you need to do depending upon the lead time following a warning trigger and the likelihood of you needing to leave the property and load items into your car first. Making the important decisions about your response to a warning trigger beforehand is crucial in an effective response.
Step by step actions – having a list of actions which you would need to take, such as stacking furniture,can result in saving some of the larger and more expensive furnishings in your home. Depending on the depth of floodwater expected, two pairs of wellingtons for each leg of the dining room table could be enough to protect it and allow it to be used as elevated storage space for other items. Upturned buckets can be placed beneath each leg of a settee or chair to help raise them a foot above floor level.
A list of useful contact details – having contact details for emergency services, insurance company, local authorities and agencies as well as friends and family members can allow you to alert people and call for help. Following a flood event, electricians and other trades are likely to be very busy. Having a list of contractors and drying companies to contact early on may also be beneficial.
Details of a pre-arranged alternative accommodation – should you need to evacuate or leave your property, having a safe place to stay for a few days will help relieve some immediate stress and worry, especially for families with children. Try and record details of a local evacuation centre, make arrangements with a friend or family member you could stay with, or even prepare contact details of a few local B&B’s or hotels to contact for bookings. Insurance companies will usually cover the cost of alternative accommodation, but if a wide area is affected by a flood event, vacancies can be filled up fast.
The location and installation procedures for any product – if you don’t currently have anything in place, it’s worth considering the purchase of some PFR products. While there is obviously a financial outlay, it doesn’t always have to be expensive and can be done in stages. You can find out more about protecting your property in this ‘Property Flood Resilience (PFR) booklet’ here.
The locations of your utility meters and shut off instructions – knowing where these are located and how to turn off your electricity, gas and water when actioning your plan can help to reduce damage and ensure your property remains safe should floodwater enter. Detailed instructions will also help a friend or neighbour to do this safely on your behalf.
The location of a pre-prepared flood kit – usually in the form of either a grab bag or suitcase, this will prove invaluable should you need to evacuate your home and should include important things which you will need for the next few days. Items such as medicines, mobile phone chargers, spare clothes and toiletries, insurance policies for your home and vehicle, as well as torches, wellingtons, cash and cards etc. Including a camera to document any damage to your property, a pad and pen, as well as a wall marker to record the depth of water on photographs is also useful.
Post flood event and recovery information – should water enter your property, having step by step details of what to do and who to contact will be extremely useful. Having a checklist and knowing what to ask your insurance company will help to ensure nothing is missed and overlooked. You can find out more about flood recovery here.
When developing your home flood plan, try and keep it simple and easy to follow; ideally a couple of pages or a double sided document. Recording clear actions, locations and instructions will allow a key holder, such as a friend, neighbour or family member to action the plan on your behalf if you should be away from the property at the time.
To help you get started, you can download a home flood plan template here.
For further information you can download a home flood planning guidance booklet here.